04.22: Mini Road Trip East Crete 1

Heading East

Friday 19th April

Kalimera readers – James here blogging after a long gap – for all kinds of reasons…..   We Jazzed to the east of Kriti – via Heraklion for a new Jez key – we seem to misplace keys – occasionally…  (K:  What he kindly doesn’t say is that I hid two sets of Jez keys somewhere safe.  Along with the roof box keys.  News sets all round required!) We wild camped overnight in exactly the same spot as 4 years ago – big Spinalonga.

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A repeat overnight … just over onto Big Spinalonga

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K walked up to a chapel and later when looked oat our blog from 4 years ago saw I’d taken the exact same photo.

Pachia Ammos

Saturday 30th April 2020

While wrestling with the roof box on our Suzuki car, I strained my wrist – painful – so Nurse Clune bandaged (not banjaxed) me up. No running and an easy day and Lidl shopping… 

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Nurse Katherine LOL!  A tea towel was sacrificed to make a bandage and dog lead used as a sling.  K wasn’t a Girl Guide for nothing, even if they did ask her to leave!

Tholos Beach

Sunday 1st May 2020

Another lovely beach overnight – hair pruning – moi and big O…In the morning, I ran and K did Pilates of the Caribbean – or Aegean…I’ve got up to 5Km walking and running – keeping my pulse rate below 106/120 max. We’ll run/walk a half marathon in October – to accompany Maddy and Jordan – virtually – raising money for MacMillan nurses…

We liked Tholos.  One close Taverna and a few bodies (alive).  Only the Brits were sunbathing with a needed wind break. Walked to the end of the beach and spotted a chemical loo  (which we used: not us but our cassette). 

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Tholos Granary was used in Roman times.  Goods were shipped in and stored until they were sent by pack horse to a port on the South.  The question has to be, why didn’t the ship just sail to the next port?

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Tholos Beach and some geezer taken from the granary.

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 Corrie STOP!

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Oscar post pruning.  J had his head sheared too! 

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We do not have a choice.  Too many so called friends have spoilt CO2 and now they expect to have a bed snuggle every morning.  Corrie goes to extremes and lays her head on a pillow and is often under the duvet!

Mochlos

Monday 2nd May 2020

Parked at Mochlos – as 4 years ago…  Am – drove to the town – it rained – sought refuge in a taverna – for local lunch – aubergine salad, fava and moussaka (K:  You forgot about your side order of fries James!) – noshtimo! 

Overnight was near Sitia … a turtle hatching beach.  Again a spot revisited.  K checked when turtles come up to lay eggs on the beach (May-to September is the answer) and did a recconnaisance walk before releasing our beasts.  Locals smiled and waved at us or even came and had a CO2 cuddle.  Nowhere have we found people to be as friendly as in Greece.

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Looking back to Tholos Beach.  

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Mochlos.  When it rains  what to do but have lunch.  Last time we were here we sat outside and watched a cat try to climb a pole to reach a squid hung out to dry.  Today we watched rivulets of water come under the restaurant awning.

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Fortunately the sun came out as we walked back to Jez.

Sitia and onto Chiona

Tuesday 3rd May 2020

City of Sitia  – walk – seeking a phone case, cable – no luck so will order online. Lovely city Sitia.  Proper working town. Obligatory coffee… 

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Yep, cold and windy.  May in Crete!

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Roman Fisheries.

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Coffee stop.

Drove to Toplou Monastery – famous building – and scene of defences against Ottomans and Germans…..Well worth the Euro 8 for entrance. Ecclesiastical vestments and altar bits – reminded me of being an altor boy in Glasthule St Joseph’s…

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Toplou Mnastery.  It’s wealthy as they own tracts of land on this this western point.

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And it does look like a fortress.  Part of the museum was guns from the Ottoman resistance and WW2.  It seems incongruous but most Greek priests and monks took up arms.

On to our overnight stay at Chiona.  We chose a different restaurant to last time we we were here, just to shake it up a bit!

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So far it has been too cold, wet and windy to get the stand up paddle board out.  It is travelling strapped into CO2’s sofa …. they have to take turns and occasionally they both manage to get up there.

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Chiona Beach Wetlands.

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Chiona Beach.

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Nearby Palaikastro Minoan site.  It was second in size to Knossos but not fully excavated.  Free to wander as no warden or box for the EUR3 fee.

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Local sausages for J.

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Possibly the best shrimp saganaki I’ve had.


1035-1040 : A Crete Easter, Ancient Sites and Some Walking

1035 – Wednesday 4th April 2018: Paddling, Gournia and Mochlos

We ran again….I’m going for a record 7 days in succession – tomorrow will see it.   We paddled in the sea!  Brrrrrrrr…..  Then – K’s brain flashed – short of water on board – why not use the external shower connection to part shower, and more importantly do hairwashes?  Brilliant!  Onwards and upwards to Gournia – Minoan settlement – up to 5,000 years old – and the doggies were allowed in too. 

Jezmotored us to Mochlos – a beautiful seaside/harbour town – more of those closely shaved streets – millimetres to spare – whew….  Walked a bit and saw a nice big villa for sale – K googled it – €3.8 million!  South of France prices here….

Glass of vino at a nearby family restaurant – lovely people.  We decided to return later for supper – entree, 2 courses, wine with complimentary dessert and Raki  – €25 including tip!!!   

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The dogs were NOT tempted to follow me in for a paddle.

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Gournia: the most completely preserved Minoan town in Crete.  It was occupied 3000BC, but these remains are c.1500BC, as fire destroyed the previous town.

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What is great about this site is that a) the dogs were allowed in but more importantly b) you can wander at will, climbing over all the paths and into all the stone foundations.  The stone streets are clearly identifiable.  

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We stopped at a lay-by at Platanos … our lunchtime view.

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Looking back to Mokhlos harbour and the island with more Minoan remains.  You can swim to it, but we didn’t, given how chilly our paddle was yesterday. 

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You can just make out the archeological remains on the island slopes.

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Just outside the retaurant we we dined … the island and an air drying octopus … I had to google it, apparently a is common practice here to dry them out before grilling.  It had to be rescued by the waiter as a cat did a cartoon pole climb and slide back down in an attempt to get to it.

1036 – Thurday 5th April: Richtas Gorge

I ran and yes – now 7 days on the trot – I trotted for just over 5k – that’s 30k this week – best for years!  Richtas Gorge was our next target…..3 hours walking, we reached a beach with picnic tables for al fresco lunch.  At the start the route was concrete road through allotments with all sorts of fruit trees just coming into blossom … easy peasy walking.  Then muddy track – this is more like we thought!   Followed by significant large boulder climbing.  K’s bum came into it’s own – oops, actually she slid on her derrière…that’s more posh than ‘bumming’ it!!! Or slumming it, plumbing it (I’m plumbing the depths now), glumming it…..  2.5 hours climbing back up – faster.  Doggos needed use of the external shower for mud removal! 

We wanted to overnight at Sitia town but the available parking looked a bit rough.  Luckily, K spotted a beachside small parking – so we encamped gladly.  Think we’ll all sleep well tonight!

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What this does not show is all the big boulders we had to climb over … I used my bum a number of times … ho hum clean shorts on today!

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Another beach front parking.  An info board said that a rare breed of turtle hatches here, but no sign of them now.

1037 – Friday 6th April: Monastery But No Easter For Us

Toplou Monastery – an Easter service was in progress so we didn’t see a lot of the church – we attended part of the mass/service – I recognised some Greek prayers that are included in the Catholic mass – “Kyrie Eleison”…..  Unfortunately, the museum was closed so we toured the grounds and the shop.  We purchased an excellent Gorge walks book – and some Monastery wine at €9!  

Vai palm tree forest and beach was next but – no dogs allowed!!!  And we were advised this most forceibly as soon as we dismounted from Jez.  Didn’t feel at all welcome so we instantly decided to take our business elsewhere – with all our noses in the air!  In season, they charge for the car park, toilets and beach showers … not our sort of place.  Itanos ancient site and lovely beaches instead to wander freely and on our own …..   Great lunch stop.

We had wanted to visit the town of Palekastro – but no possibility of easy van parking.  We had thought to to join in the Easter service and parade, but not to be.   Overnight – Chiona Beach – at the waters edge – again.  Excellent nearby restaurant – for a glass – and a decision to return for supper.  See photo of our table right overlooking the clear blue waters…..  We both had fish – superb!  We dined into the sunset and beyond – when we heard loud barking coming from the direction of Jez – our doggos?  Now the most unusual thing happened!  We legged it back to the van – and left wine on the table!!!   Our dogs were fine – the barking was mostly elsewhere… we suspect it was the noise of the dynamite and fireworks setting off all the local dogs.  A good reason for us not to be in town … both our darlings are sudden noise adverse.  

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Toplou Monastery:  a major tourist attraction.  Very wealthy and a major land owner. 

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 Unfortunately we could see much of the inside of the church due to the service and the museum was closed.  

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Vai:  the date palm are the only indigenous European palms.  Stopped to take a pic, as we were not made welcome at the beach, where they filmed the Bounty advert.

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Itanos ancient site.  It had 3 small sandy beaches that were dog friendly 🙂

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Chiona: I thought this was a muddy puddle, but it is a wetland!  We parked up jus to the left.

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Supper out again!  Right on the water’s edge.

 1038 – Saturday 7th April: Zakros Site and Gorge

After a very good nights slumber, we both ran…..on my way, I felt some strange wetness on my face?  Was it pissperation – oops, perspiration?  Digression here, readers if you will indulge me?  As a young adolescent, I frequented Fitzgeralds bar in Sandycove (Amelia will know this location too – and James Joyce drank there, also).  One evening, my friend Andrew and I were having a wc visit – he dared me to try and pee out the window!  I duly obliged (as one does) successfully…..  Back to our pints of Smitwicks….  Just then my uncle Peader came in from the street – shaking his rather wet flat cap – shouting “some bloody f****r just pissed on my hat”!!!!!  Straight faces from us – and we promptly bought him a large whisky!  What’s the link to motor homing, you cry?  Well, has any of you ever tried to pee out the window of your van?  Margaret, Shirley, Robyn???  With a ’shewee’?   No need to post replies – decorum….

Back to the present – the wetness was an unusual thing called ‘rain’!  What a cheek….. run cut short (I’m not a wimp, really).

We zig zagged our route to Kato Zakro – for the ancient site and Gorge.  No parking in town (it is only a street really with restaurants) – about to reverse – K got out to spot for me….  The nearby restaurant owner appeared – and invited us to park in his customer car park – and said we could overnight  there as well!  What lovely people!  We took coffee there – and perhaps supper tonight….  It is Easter after all – and we just won £75 on Premium Bonds!!!  Decision made …  as if there was much of a decision to be made!

The ancient site is one of the best we’ve seen – compact and easy to navigate with good signage.  And again we had it to ourselves.  As the forecast was for rain and thunderstorms – so we wondered about the Gorge walk?  Ok, let’s set out and we can return if it gets too wet.  Wow – did we make the right choice!  Immense and ‘Gorgeous’.  The photos do it full justice – caves in the cliffs, goats (we had to restrain Corrie), lilies, different coloured rocks – just amazing! 

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Zakros: another Minoan palace, but not excavated until 1960s so more modern preservation techniques used. 

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The Port Road.

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Drop Dead Gorgeous … Dead Man’s Gorge, so named due to Minoan burials in the caves.

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Corrie’s fav attraction …  At one point, she was perched on a … well perch of rock, in pursuit.  After that she spent a lot of the walk on the lead.

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They really are beautiful creatures.  And amazing what they can climb up.

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It’s really a starter, but suits me as a main.  Shrimp Saganaki … some of the shell is left on to flavour sauce…. green pepper and ouzo with crumbed feta.  Yummy.  I think this my be 4th.

1039 – Sunday 8th April: The “You Should Be OK” Walk

Easter Sunday in Crete! Nico the restaurant owner and his team started roasting 3 lambs at 6:30 am!  We had asked if we could participate – yes….and he said we could stay an extra night in his car oark.  We enquired about the ‘big hill’ walk – he looked us up and down and said – “you’ll be ok”.  (5 hours later, we might have disagreed!). Steep walking, clambering, rocks, boulders and ‘bum sliding’!!!  One sign said the walk was ‘laborious’!!!  Boy, was it worthwhile! Carpenters song “I’m on top of the world – looking down on creation”….. we were.  The cave was reached in good time – 310 metres long and very deep. The path back was easier along the coast – and we fell into Nico’s – I murdered a cold stein of beer and K had iced coffee…bliss. We settled to a veritable feast of lamb, veggies and vino – scrumptuous…..  

A large Greek gathering beside us were in full vocal flow – an Easter birthday party. We only know this as they sang Happy Birthday!  Later, a nearby house had singing well into the evening – luckily, no fireworks or dynamite!

We love the Cretan Easter celebrations…..and we slept wonderfully.

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And we’re going up.

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And still climbing.  You can just make out the crevice of the Dead Men’s Gorge top right

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Reckon that’s a trig point so we must be at the top.

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We came from that distant bay.  And still travelling north in search of Pelekita Cave.

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Made it to the Cave

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OK, the rock looks a little phallic, but interesting that they are excavating down here, and it stretched quite a way.

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A much easier path now.  The end and a late lunch (J had breakfasted on a large bowl of muesli, I’d had a cuppa soup and we’d each had a slice of dry rye bread en route … so pretty hungry) is nigh.

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We’ve seen only one shop window decorated for Easter.  This is their major celebration of the year, but not a chocolate egg in sight.   A very welcome change from the excesses in the UK.

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The fire outside the restaurant where they make their BBQ coals.

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The fantastic owner had saved us two portions of lamb.  Truly scrummy. 

1040 – Monday 9th April: Cleaning Day

Morning, we ran and said fond adieu to Nico and team…. drove to a parking up at the top of the gorge with a water tap – for laundry, van cleaning and self showering!  Filled up with water and Jezzed along past more gorges, stunning mountains and countryside – to Xerokambos – and more unspoiled beaches – a nicely secluded free seaside parking. Even a Portaloo for chemical wc emptying.  All serviced up and a chilled down evening inside!  And home cooking after all the extravagancies of Easter.  We may not have gorged on chocolate, but we gorged on gorges and dining out!

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Beaches at Xerokambos separated by rocks.

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